Huay Xai to Vientiane the Hard Way

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by fm2002, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. This is more of a road report for those thinking of taking any or all of the roads I was on. I did this in my truck, but thought the info could be applied to bikes as well. Actually planning on a scaled down trip on bikes in January or February 2010.

    Huay Xai to Luang Nam Tha - the reports were the road was a really good one and it started this way however about 45 minutes out there were these sections cut out of the asphalt. What made these so bad was they came up without warning and the cuts were around 4" straight down meaning when you hit them it was like hitting a speed bump but these weren't rounded off. This bad section lasted for about 45 minutes. The rest of the way into Lunag Nam Tha was good. Total time around 2 1/2 hours

    Luang Nam Tha to Muang Sing - Great road twisting upwards. A great road for motorcycles. No problems at all accept a little bumping as you enter the town. Total time 1 1/2 hours

    Muang Sing / Luang Nam Tha to Udomxai - you have to backtrack through Luang Nam Tha to get to Udomxai. About 15 minutes out from Luang Nam Tha you hit a stop where you have to pay a toll of 5000 kip. Right after that you come to a police stop. I've been almost everywhere in Laos and this is only the second time I've had a stop like this. They checked all our papers and I didn't get insurance this time when I crossed. Honestly didn't see a place to buy it in Huay Xai. Not sure if this was a $$$ stop or they were legit Anyway I was a bit stern with them and my Thai girlfriend who can speak Lao promised them we would buy it in Vientiane :) They let us go w/o any $$ paid. What was funny was we pay a toll for the road and after the road turns to shit. Very bad asphalt and dirt loaded with potholes; let's call it a second gear with very little 3rd gear mixed in. Total time 4 1/2 hours with a stop for gas in Luang Nam Tha.

    Udom Xai to Pak Beng - we actually stopped only for lunch in Udomxai and than continued on to Pak Beng (not sure I would recommend staying overnight in Pak Beng during the hot season. they have power only from 6-10pm and when that fan turned off in our room it got hot to the point I slept very little) The road itself is great twisting downhill the whole way through a valley filled with rice and corn fields. Another great road for bikes. I think 2 1/2 hours.

    Pak Beng to Sarinbuyli - you drive out of Pak Beng about 10km to the ferry to cross the Mekong 90,000 kip. The road for next hour or so was good compacted and almost ready for concrete. After you pass what I think was Hongsa the road gets bad and for the next 2 hours remains this way. This is a road where if it had been raining would be a lot worse and they were places that were blind uphill turns that if you missed you could be very quickly off the road and rolling down sheer cliffs; dead ! Road bad scenery very good. Total time 4 1/2 hours including a 20 min wait for the ferry and gas stop.

    Sarinbuyli to Pak Lay to Vientiane - again bad road 2nd and sometimes 3rd gear lots of potholes. This road worse than the day before. Some logging trucks in this area and a few elephants (highlight). Stopped in Pak Lay for lunch (took 3 1/2 hours). Here is where I deviated from my original plan. If you look at the GT Riders map or even Lonely planet the road heads straight south out of Pak Lay all the way down to the Mekong. We instead about 5 minutes out from Pak Lay veered left and crossed by ferry and headed on a road south southeast. This road may be the one in the same as the two maps mentioned above, but when I compared the heading on my Nuvi GPS and the other maps this road ended up further east along the Mekong. Anyway this road was great. Twisting down for about 1 1/2 hours. After this the road gets bad again and becomes the new winner of the worst road I've traveled in Laos. The beginning was ok, but the kind of road you are cruising at say 90 kph and all of a sudden it turns really bad and you have to slam on your breaks to avoid a pothole or a ditch. After this is where it gets bad especially when you are following next to the Mekong. Actually I had to lock into 4 wheel drive 3 or 4 times. The last hour or so is a good dirt road. Had a blast flying along topping out at 100+ kph and had a great Rally race feel to it ! This part took me around 4 hours. So total time 7 1/2 to 8 hours

    My overall opinion is all these roads are doable in a truck and dirt bike. If it were wet you would need a 4x4 in some places. If really wet you would definitely need a 4x4 and it would take more time. This trip for me was better for the drive than the places visited. Exception would be Luang Nam Tha and especially Muang Sing where we did a 3-day trek.

    Here's a link to my website with pics of my trip: ... t%204.html

    Hope this helps.

    If there are others in the SE Asia area (I live in Thailand) looking at doing interesting trips in their truck and looking for others to join let me know. If we can get a few it would justify the permitting costs to places like Vietnam and China ???

  2. Great pics of people and the scenery. Haven't been to the Xayabouri area but have plans to go later this year after the rainy season has finished. As this is part 4 of your trip, are the other parts also somewhere?

    The 3rd edition of the GT Rider map indeed does not have the Paklay to Xanakham road and shows the road to the border crossing at Nam Heung/Thali. The new map (4th edition) does show both options - south to Thailand or east from Paklay to Xanakham and then along the Mekong to Vientiane. The Garmin GPS map for Laos (shown below) has this road (Rd no. 11) as well.


    Finding the place to get insurance for Laos in Huay Xai is not easy as it is in town. Just in case someone needs to find the place, here it is:


    Attached Files:

  3. We always buy motorcycle insurance at the office at the top of the steps going toward customs after you get off the ferry. At the top of the steps you go right for customs, straight on for insurance. This is AGL also.

    I am sure they must sell it there for cars/trucks because there would not be enough motorcycles coming across to make it worth their while. Good to know where the office is in town though.
  4. Parts 1-3 were spent; 1) Champasak/Pakse/Pakxong/Salavan than up the coast to Savannakhet. 2) Vientiane/Vang Vieng/Phonsavan/Xam Nuea/ViengThong/Vieng Kham/Nhong Kiaw/Muang Khua/Phongsali/Luang Prabang and back south to Vientiane. 3) Savannakhet/Thakek than the loop and back on the coast to Vientiane. There ain't much left except for Attapeu and south of Champasak.
  5. The south of Laos offers also great riding and a trip to Attapeu and the blue crater lake and road 18A from Attapeu to Thang Beng, Wat Phou and the 4000 Islands are worthwhile to visit.

    Better wait till the end of the dry season before you tackle Rd 18A as otherwise the truck may not be able to make it. See ... t5189.html for some info on the Lake and how to get there as well as Rd 18A.

    In case you need GPS tracks/maps for that area jut let me know. By the way, does your Nuvi collect tracks?
  6. Read all about 18A and crater lake. Was going to do it last year when I was in the area, but the gf wasn't up to trekking up to the lake. Will get there.

    Not sure about my Nuvi 200. If you mean will it take memory cards with maps than yes. The map card I have for Laos is from Rottweiler. Also have one for Singapore and Malaysia and it came with Thailand installed. What map(s) do you have and from who ?

    Noticed you were from Chiang Mai. Awhile back I did a bike trip North of Chiang Mai. I stayed at a small guesthouse the owner you probably know him he's friends of David (GT Riders) and owns I believe a Suzuk 1100. Anyway he took me to a shop/tent where you could buy very affordable motorcycle gear; helmets etc. Do you know the place ? If so could you give me coordinates or instructions to get there. I'm going to Northern Vietnam in August and need some gear.
  7. The Nuvi 200 can not collect tracks - it will only show where you are. You can collect waypoints with the the Nuvi 200. With regard to maps, I know the Rotweiler map and while parts are quite good, other parts are less good and show roads which do not exist or are a best a trail only. I am using a map which is based upon David GT Riders tracks as well as tracks of a lot of other people.

    Not sure if this is the same person/GH where you stayed but John from Jonadda GH is riding a Suzuki 1100 if I am not mistaken. Best to contact him directly at [email [email protected]][email protected][/email] as he is the guy who should know where this place is.

    You can also check the "Any message here" section and in particular ... t5127.html as this may have been the place where John brought you.
  8. It was John. Thanks !
  9. fm2002
    Sounds like you've been having a good time, plus doing bike trip in
    North Thai. All good stuff. I'd love to see some photos on GT Rider - is there any chance you could wack up few up for us to look at. It would get the guys talking & encourage a few more to ride 'n drive.
  10. Hey David

    I have pics of my most recent trip here: ... t%204.html

    If you would like more I have some from motorcycling in remote areas of Northern Vietnam and Northern Thailand. Let me know.

    I need some gear for a trip in August to Northern Vietnam. It will be on 2 stroke Russian Minsks. A mix of on/off road. In particular lightweight vented pants, jersey and gloves with kevlar padding. Any such place in Thailand to find ???
  11. Yes please post more trip reports & info, with photos if you can.
    I looked at your photo album but there are no captions with the road shots to identify exactly where the photos are, which is the real info we are all looking for. So if you can be bothered please put a few with captions up on GT Rider.

    Some photos would be brilliant to go with this..
  12. David,

    I put captions under each photo explaining the road pics. When I have more time I will post other trips and pics.

    Any answer to my request of places to buy gear in Thailand ???


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